Avanti L'Opera: An A-Z of Italian Baroque Overtures

Reviewed on Fri 02 Jan, 2015

Kah-Ming Ng and his period-instrument ensemble Charivari Agréable continue their laudable attempt to unearth little-known gems from the Baroque era. Here they turn their attention to 17th- and 18th-century Italian opera overtures, which typically take a fast-slow-fast form and eschew any subtleties of counterpoint or dynamics: this is music written for noisy theatres intended to be played while the audience were busy finding their seats, talking to their friends, and generally not listening to the pit orchestra. Hence the attention-grabbing fanfares, the lively dance finales and the emphasis on hear-it-once simplicity. The overtures were generally interchangeable too, not tailored to fit that evening’s opera, Leonardo Leo’s brash, brassy Catone in Utica being as good an example as any – jolly music hardly calculated to prepare listeners for a tragic story of Ancient Roman sacrifice and suicide! But Charivari Agréable live up to their name and provide a pleasantly agreeable tumult indeed.
–Mark Walker